On our radar: James Frankland

James Frankland is a UK based guitar instrumentalist with a taste for fast cinematic compositions that bend and curl through a wide range of moods and atmospheres.

On tracks such as The Light, from his upcoming album, Dystopian Utopia, Frankland weaves simple minor melodies from complex parts layered on acoustic and electric guitar, keeping the ethereal and overdrive in balance. His approach is influenced by composers such as Hans Zimmer as much as by other guitarists; Frankland will use the piano to complement the guitar and widen the canvas, and on occasion takes a bold and unorthodox approach to structure.

Blackstar Amps Silverline Series users may recognize its name. Frankland, a Blackstar endorser, designed the Clean Up patch. He is a regular performer, having performed in several West End musicals and at the Royal Albert Hall as part of the Music For Youth Proms.

Focusing on gear from Blackstar, Victory Amps, Seymour Duncan, Shergold and Ernie Ball pickups, Frankland’s number one six-string is his signature Capulet made by Ambler Custom Guitars – a premium double cut with a swamp ash body, AAAAA quilted maple top that houses a pair of Seymour Duncan Phat Cat P-90s.

As Frankland says, the P-90s are instrumentalists’ best friends when it comes to creating a part that can sit at the top of the mix and carry the melody like on The Light. Here he talks about inspirations, walks through his writing process, and some of the thoughts behind his gear choices.

How would you describe your sound to a new listener?

James Frankland: “Instrumental guitar combined with moody atmospheres, contrasting sparse melodic sections with heavier sections of dense production. “

Which of your songs represents you the best and why?

“There is a piece from Dystopian Utopia called Liberation. This one is a bit odd from a compositional standpoint as instead of a normal type structure it has four completely different sections, but each in a style that I really love to play.

“It starts with a synth and nylon string guitar solo, which then turns into a very heavy tattered solo that is fun to follow. After that it drops into a quieter solo section before ending on a clean ambient outro. It’s only two and a half minutes long, but this track has some of my favorite sections and tones from the whole album. ”

What inspired the creative process for this album?

“In the early years of my career, I was mainly doing session-oriented work for other artists, where being able to cover as many tones and styles as possible is key. So with this album, I really wanted to explore the tones and styles that I would naturally gravitate towards in my own music and find “my sound” so to speak. ”

What is your favorite musical experience / memory with this project so far?

“This is a fairly recent project and with the live music scene on hiatus last year, there hasn’t been a chance to perform any of the songs yet, so I think my experience Favorite to date would actually be the exploration process mentioned above. .

“Trying out tons of guitars and amps and really getting the chance to figure out what I love most about sound and technique, and generally thinking as an artist rather than a session player. “

In dense guitar mixes where there may be three or more dual-track parts at the same time, the bridge pickups of a TV or guitar with P-90 really help cut through the mix.

Is there a particular album that had a big impact on your childhood and how?

“The permission to land in darkness was a big deal to me. I had just started playing guitar when Darkness was starting to get really popular, and I remember I was too young to be allowed to listen to it when it came out with the ‘explicit content’ sticker on it. in front of.

“Not long after that I had bought a cheap copy of a Les Paul in white like the one Customs Justin Hawkins plays, and I Believe In A Thing Called Love was the first song I learned to play. from beginning to end. “

If you could steal the production of an album / track, which one would you take and why?

“I’m a big fan of a lot of film scores for orchestras, especially the work of Hans Zimmer. If I had to pick a specific track, it would probably be a track called Parlay from the Pirates of the Caribbean soundtrack.

“It starts very dramatically with the string section playing repeated phrases, then builds up in tension with staccato brass, bass piano and choral notes. Then it kicks off with that great guitar sound on a reverb drenched Strat using the trem to create that epic solo with the combination of an orchestra and lead guitar.

Do you have favorite songwriting material and demo ideas and why is that important to you?

“Usually I tend to write about the closest guitar, but when it comes to demos, I really like using guitars with P-90s or TV mics for lead-type lines. / vocal if it’s an instrument.

“That’s something we learned doing the last album, in dense guitar mixes where there can be three or more double-track parts at the same time, the bridge pickups of a TV or a TV. guitars with P-90s really help slice the mix with their more pronounced top end. “

I’m a big fan of minimalist guitar rigs, so being able to have an amp as big as a full-size standard pedal that can run straight to the PA would be perfect for clinical type gigs.

What instrument or piece of equipment would you like to have next and why?

“I really like the look of the new Victory V4 Kraken amp that just came out. I use a lot of impulse responses when recording and the Two notes software is built in, so for a portable platform this is ideal. I’m a big fan of minimalist guitar rigs, so being able to have an amp as big as a full-size standard pedal that can run directly to the PA would be perfect for clinical type gigs.

Where would you like to take your sound next?

“I started to demo a few of the tracks from the next album and so far it’s a similar style but with more emphasis on the piano parts because all of my favorite Dystopian Utopia tracks were the ones that combine guitar and piano .. So the plan is really a continuation of the first album but with vibe, atmospheres and even more guitar solos backed up by tense piano chords.

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